Happy birthday and welcome to your 50’s! The 50’s are a great decade—here’s some of what you might expect the next ten years:
1. Productivity & influence. The next ten years you will probably be more productive for the kingdom than all your years to date (and maybe even all your years before and after the 50’s combined). You are not longer a young up-and-coming minister and you’ll not be an older minister on the decline—in your 50’s you will be at your prime. Choose wisely where to spend this productivity. The 50’s may also bring you your greatest power, and you can use that power variously…chose wisely on what you spend your power.
2. Burnout. It happens in the 50’s to some pastors. Having devotions won’t prevent it—it is more complex than that. Choose wisely what you light on fire lest you light yourself afire. If you set yourself afire many will come to watch, however. When the fire goes out they won’t stay for the ashes—they’ll leave.
3. The great compromise. In your 50’s you’ll admit that some of your dreams probably won’t happen. This might be compromise to some but it is realism to others. On the other hand you might realize it is your last chance to accomplish other dreams. People who imagine doing all kinds of interesting things in their 60’s seldom do them unless they started in their 50’s.
4. Empty Nest. Somewhere in this decade the kids will be gone and you can have a second honeymoon. Maybe every week.
5. Marital changes. Some grow closer in their 50’s, others grow apart. It is your decision. In the 50’s many husbands get more like their wife has been all along. Some say it is sanctification. Or maybe it is just age. Whichever, most couples in the 50’s consider their marriage far more satisfying than the 40’s and 30’s.
6. Physical changes. One of the secrets making the 50’s so good is you will quit looking back and start looking ahead. Men in their 40’s tend to look back to their 30’s and regret how much they’ve lost; in the 50’s they look ahead and rejoice at how much you’ve still got. In your 50’s you begin believing that you are the fittest you’ll probably ever be—and that changes how you think. You may notice a bit of hearing loss, reduced vigor, and might even need an occasional nap But you’ll still be more productive since you will have learned to work smarter not longer. 50’s are a time of focus.
7. “Last job.” Somewhere in your 50’s you’ll realize that you are making your last job choice. You may continue doing what you’re doing or change to another church, but somewhere in the 50’s most males start “counting down.” In the early 50’s you might say to yourself, “I probably have one more church in me” but by the end of the 50’s you will either be in that church or have settled in your own church as you “last full time ministry.” Some are able to move to other work in their 60’s but for most men it is pretty rare.
8. Health scare. You or your wife might have a serious health scare in your 50’s. It is a precursor to your later years. Let’s hope you skip this. But be prepared to hold some funerals in your 50’s of people younger than you and at the visitation people will say “they had a good life.”
10. Family changes. You may enter this decade with your kids finally leaving home but you will probably leave the 50’s as a grandparent. During this decade your children might quit coming home for Christmas—you’ll go to their home. The focus on your family will decrease; the focus on their family will increase.
11. Faith. You may settle some faith issue you took for granted in your 40’s 30’s and before. You may face some doubts you never entertained before. You might enter what James Fowler calls “conjunctive faith.” You might become more close-minded and more open-minded simultaneously.
12. Generativity. This is the decade when you choose “generativity or stagnation” according to psychologists Erik Erikson. You will use your “power and productivity” to focus your energy on yourself (stagnation) or invest it by multiplying in the coming generation (generativity). By the end of your 50’s you be in the habit of protecting your own power or promoting the next generation.
Have a happy birthday! Your coming decade can be the best years of your life (except, of course, your 60’s—but I’ll tell you about those in another ten years!
So, what do you think?
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Keith Drury February 22, 2011